For many of us, opportunities to travel during the pandemic have been few and far between. In the interest of quarantining and social distancing, we are launching a virtual World Tour series inspired by works in the Museum’s collection. Join us as we begin our journey across the globe, departing from Phoenix and heading through the Southwest to Santa Fe. Here’s Tim Rodgers, PhD, the Sybil Harrington Director and CEO of Phoenix Art Museum, with a close analysis of a collection work by Willard Nash that depicts the storied region.
“In search of good health and the “real” America, young artists such as Willard Nash settled in New Mexico to paint the dramatic landscapes and Indigenous peoples of the region. He arrived in 1920 in response to an invitation by Mabel Dodge Luhan, the eccentric, East Coast heiress, who issued many such invitations with the hope that New Mexico’s scenic beauty and Indigenous cultures might inspire artists to create new work and establish art colonies in the West. Many now-famous artists, writers, and dancers, including Ansel Adams, Martha Graham, D.H. Lawrence, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Paul Strand, enjoyed Luhan’s generosity and created some of their finest works in response to the land and cultures they considered unfamiliar.
In New Mexico, Nash quickly became part of a painting group called Los Cinco Pintores (The Five Painters), which included Jozef Bakos, Fremont Ellis, Walter Mruk, and Will Shuster. Although the artists exhibited together, their work shared very few stylistic similarities. Nash, more so than the other painters, relied on his familiarity with European artists and their work to inspire his creations. In this 1925 painting seen here, Untitled (Santa Fe Landscape), now in the collection of Phoenix Art Museum, Nash’s admiration of the art of Cezanne is apparent in the building-block like construction, the rough patches of colors, and the interest in a rural landscape dominated by a mountain. Both Cezanne and Nash were looking for terrain and an artistic style that declared a specific personal aesthetic and a national identity—whether French or American—and found it in rural, rugged landscapes painted in a rough-hewn manner.”
Willard Nash, Untitled (Santa Fe Landscape) (Sin título [Paisaje de Santa Fe]), c. 1925. Oil on canvas. Museum purchase with funds provided by Betty Van Denburgh and Western Art Associates in honor of its 40th Anniversary.